Catalogue des Manuscrits de la Bibliothèque de defunt Monseigneur le Chancellier Séguier. PIERRE SÉGUIER.

The Very Rare Catalogue of the MSS. of Séguier

Catalogue des Manuscrits de la Bibliothèque de defunt Monseigneur le Chancellier Séguier.

Woodcut arms on title. 119, [1], 48, 36, 45 pp. Four parts in one vol. 12mo, 19th-cent. red morocco by R. Petit, triple gilt fillet round sides, spine richly gilt, a.e.g. Paris: F. Le Cointe & D. Horthemels, 1686.

The extremely rare inventory catalogue of the manuscripts in the large and famous library of Pierre Séguier (1588-1672), chancellor of France and a man of deep learning. Séguier was a true bibliophile and an omnivorous one: Sauval, in his catalogue of the great Parisian libraries prepared in 1653-60, estimated at that time only the libraries of the King and Mazarin were larger; Séguier then owned about 24,000 volumes and he had more than ten years left to acquire!

This is the only extant printed record of Séguier’s manuscripts, about four thousand in number, based on the 1672 inventory by René Hardy, a lawyer and himself an owner of manuscripts, and the traveller and orientalist Melchisedech Thévenot (1620-92) who was to become Keeper of the Bibliothèque du Roi in 1684.

The catalogue is divided into four sections, the first listing state and official papers in the widest sense, historical manuscripts, local histories, literature, medicine, etc. The second describes the illuminated manuscripts (“Inventaire des Miniatures”); the third the Greek manuscripts, as well as ca. fifty Slavonic manuscripts, and two Greek printed books. The final section describes the Arabic, Coptic, Syriac, Ethiopic, and Hebrew manuscripts as well as a few printed books in those languages.

The collection was kept together in the hope that the Bibliothèque Royale might eventually acquire it en bloc. Although the price asked was only 40,000 livres — the 1672 valuation had amounted to 56,557 livres — the offer was never taken up.

Séguier’s library was notable for being open to the public; indeed, it was the library of choice for many students and scholars in Paris. He was very concerned about methods of cataloguing and, in fact, had three major catalogues and several smaller ones prepared during his lifetime. All of these catalogues were in manuscript.

After Séguier’s death, his widow, also a bibliophile of note, kept the library intact until her death in 1685 when separate catalogues of the printed books (1685) and the manuscripts were printed from the final manuscript inventory prepared in 1672. The printed books were sold off in May of 1686 but the manuscripts were retained as his share of the estate by the Chancellor’s grandson, Coislin, bishop of Metz. He deposited the entire collection at the Benedictine Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Près to which he left it upon his death, apart from about a hundred manuscripts sold to the agents of Robert Harley, Earl of Oxford, now in the British Library. Confiscated during the French Revolution, and having suffered minor losses in a fire, three-quarters of Séguier’s manuscripts are now in the Bibliothèque Nationale.

A fine copy with the armorial bookplate of Louis de la Forets, Comte d’Armaillé and another. This catalogue is rare: it is the first time I have had it.

❧ Bléchet, p. 65. Histoire des bibliothèques françaises. Les Bibliothèques sous l’Ancien Régime 1530-1789 (ed. Claude Jolly), pp. 146-55. Pollard & Ehrman, pp. 208-10, & Table XXV (incorrectly giving the date of this catalogue as 1685).

Price: $17,500.00

Item ID: 5172

See all items in Bibliography, Private Press
See all items by